Alum Author – The Chronicler of The Hooghly: Shakti Ghosal, PGP 1984

Welcome to this exclusive interview with Shakti Ghosal – IIMB alumnus, author, and inspirational mentor.

In this conversation, we delve into the remarkable journey of Shakti Ghosal, an engineering graduate and MBA holder from the prestigious IIM Bangalore, with an illustrious corporate career spanning almost four decades both in India and abroad. As a certified professional Coach, Mentor, and Trainer, he is deeply committed to elevating leadership incubation on a global scale through corporate programs.

Join us as we gain insights into Shakti Ghosal’s experiences, achievements, and the values that drive him as a visiting professor at various IIMs, enriching the minds of aspiring business leaders. Furthermore, we explore his passion for exploring diverse cultures and places.

Explore the inspiring journey of Shakti Ghosal, a distinguished individual whose contributions in the corporate world and mentorship have made a lasting impact globally. Let’s delve into the fascinating world of his achievements and aspirations, as we learn more about his remarkable success and influence in the business sphere and beyond.

What inspired you to write “The Chronicler of The Hooghly”? Can you tell us about the journey of bringing this book to life?

As humans, we remain unique storytellers. There is always a story inside each one of us waiting to come out. My journey with authorship started with writing a blog a decade ago. When I think of it, it stemmed from that intrinsic need to ‘say something’ about what I felt passionate about at that point in time. So I ended up writing about Philosophy, World events and Trends, Management, Coaching, Life experiences amongst other domains.

As regards my book, ‘The Chronicler of the Hooghly and other stories’, I would say the following.

In our lives, we at times get confronted with intense and traumatic events which force us to question who we are, what really matters to us and what we believe in. In some ways, these events alter our sense of reality.

Each of the four stories in this book draws inspiration from such crucible events that I have had to face. The protagonists in that sense carry a bit of my own ‘experience and thought’ genes. As I see them now within the larger fabric of the stories, I do notice shades of myself and others who have been part of my life. Writing the stories has been a personal journey in that sense. At times the stories seemed to write themselves.

 Your book, “The Chronicler of The Hooghly,” appears to be a captivating blend of history, family drama, and mystical elements. Can you tell us more about the inspiration behind this unique combination of themes?

As I have mentioned earlier, each of the stories in the book draws inspiration from certain intense and at times traumatic events in my own life.

Having said that, I found it fascinating how my imagination, or should I say my subconscious mind, linked disparate nuggets of information and insights to those events. Sometimes in surrealistic ways. I know this might sound strange but one such linking occurred in an early morning dream! At another time, as I was reading a historical treatise, ‘Partner in Empire- Dwarkanath and the age of Enterprise’, my mind’s eye started visualizing Dwarkanath as a protagonist in a story which I had been contemplating.

The characters in your book are rich and multidimensional. Could you share some insights into your character development process and how you brought them to life?

Interesting, you ask this question. Apart from the protagonists carrying a bit of my own ‘experience and thought’ genes, and thus shades of my own self, I wrote in the book’s author note, “…… Some of the stories do involve personalities from the pages of history. While adequate background research has been done by me to ensure that the stories and their flow remain aligned to the framework of history, conversations and actions of individuals are fictional constructs. In that sense I might state that many of the names, characters and events remain the product of my creativity……”

“The Chronicler of The Hooghly” explores themes that resonate with readers across cultures. What messages or emotions do you hope readers will take away from your work after reading the book?

Indeed yes. The book does explore themes, both contemporary and historical, and with underlying perspectives that might resonate with readers across borders and cultures. Let me elaborate on this a bit more.

At the first level, one should read it because, even if I say so myself, of the sheer pleasure of a literary-oriented fictional read and the happiness that one gets from such an activity. But at a deeper level, I believe the Chronicler of the Hooghly would make the reader stop and think about certain aspects of his or her own life, a deeper awareness and learning from the same.

Gracy Samjetsabam, Professor of English Literature, writer, and copy editor at Sunday Guardian, put it very aptly in her review of the book. She writes, “……. Ghosal sprinkles confetti of his coaching in life skills into the storytelling to create a set of modern-day tales that are easily relatable and palatable. The style and the settings are like fresh air that enlightens as it entertains. The stories are vibrant and close to current realities, making them a worthy read……”

Without giving away too much, can you share some special bits or your favorite parts from the book?

Since each story intertwines characters and events as also moves through timelines, a favorite part might not make sense in the absence of a context. However, since you ask, I provide a couple of them here.

Story Ashtami. The year is 1947 and the incident showcases the spread and impact of  communal violence in the Paharganj locality of Delhi.

“…… Shanti slowly limped back to where his brother lay. The group of assailants had gone. Kabeer was lying in a pool of blood, his body lifeless. Suren was gazing at his brother with fond eyes, he tried to say something but only blood came out from his mouth. Shanti, in a state of utter shock, failed to notice the multiple stab wounds and the oozing blood flowing into the adjoining foul-smelling drain. Suren was dying.

Shanti sat there in the engulfing darkness desperately holding his brother’s hand. A low-pitched moan emanated from him; a sound of utter helplessness that ricocheted on the closed doors and windows of the nearby houses, and failing to open them, got lost into the night. A moan that carried with it the realisation that friendship and harmony had lost out to communal mindset and greed.”

Story The Chronicler of the Hooghly. Plassey, 1757. A first-person perspective from the battlefields of Plassey.

“……Like a beast awakening, the British Howitzers and cannons roared to life. The searing flame moved from right to left as the guns fired in sequence. Ram Prasad saw the charging infantry getting mowed down as he saw the General himself getting hit and toppling from the horse.

“Charge!” Ram Prasad heard his own voice calling. He saw his men as they rose from behind the embankment and moved forward. The unforgiving howl of the British guns erupted again and he saw his brave men falling all around him.

But why was a large part of the Bengal army not moving? He felt a searing pain in the left shoulder and then in the abdomen. Blood erupted from his body, he had been hit. But still, the main flank of the army remained stationary. Indeed, they seemed to be mute spectators of the massacre.

Realisation came to him in a flash.

“Betrayal!” With blood and life ebbing out, the last thing his dimming eyes saw was the enemy sepoys bayoneting the life out of his soldiers. They had been betrayed by their own men! The Bengal masnad, throne had been sold to a bunch of traitors. Somewhere in his dimming consciousness rose the hazy image of an exquisite pearl creation he had removed from a locked drawer in the Fort William one eventful night…….”

As a professional certified Coach, Mentor, and Trainer, could you tell us more about your Leadership Workshop cum coaching programs for organizations? What key principles or methodologies do you emphasize to develop and upgrade leadership incubation globally?

I am providing here a flavour of some of the workshop cum coaching programs operated by me.

 “Leadership 3.0 – how to rewrite the future of your organisation in the new millennium” – Leadership at its essence is the envisioning of a future that was not going to happen anyway. In today’s disruptive environment dictated by a VUCA world, such envisioning becomes increasingly challenging.

“Improving Personal Effectiveness”- What is that which constrains one from improving one’s personal effectiveness? In the experiential workshop, the participants would delve into a real-life personal effectiveness (PE) challenge they were currently facing at the workplace.

 “Up your Communication and interpersonal effectiveness!” This workshop allows you to understand how you communicate, how others communicate and what you need to do to improve interpersonal effectiveness.

“Getting to YES – The 21st century art of effective negotiation”- In today’s world, characterized by flatter organisations, faster innovation and explosive access to information the pyramid of power is shifting into networks of negotiation. The participant would leave this program with a mastery of principled negotiation and a sustainable “win-win” methodology.

“Customer Service……. to Customer Delight!”. This workshop is all about the participants learning what exceptional service and customer delight is all about, how to be customer-centric, be solution-driven, rebound back from service failures and gain the ability to handle difficult customers

My Leadership Workshop cum Coaching programs use wide-ranging concepts of Ontology, Phenomenology, Management and critical thinking to ensure that participants learn relevant Leadership concepts, gain awareness of their inner potential and all that blocks them from using that and improve one’s ability to exercise leadership effectively as a natural self-expression.

Let me clarify two somewhat uncommon terms used by me. Ontology is the ‘Science of Being’, in our context, it is the science of being a leader. An ‘On-the-court, as-lived’ phenomenon is from the discipline of phenomenology which is uniquely powerful in ensuring effective leadership as it exists ‘on the court’. The programs are thus largely experiential and participants get the opportunity to learn and use leadership technology to address a real and live case unique to themselves.

How do these programs help individuals enhance their leadership skills and overall performance?

As I have mentioned before, the programs are significantly experiential and individual-specific. The participant creates a contextual framework for him/herself, masters tools to increase the possibilities of actions available and gain awareness of one’s disempowering beliefs and assumptions. The individual thus masters the ability to exercise leadership effectively as a natural self-expression.

As an alumnus of IIM Bangalore and an accomplished author, how do you feel your experiences and education at the institute, combined with your passion for writing, have influenced your professional journey and contributed to the development of programs like “Winning in a Disruptive World”?

To put it succinctly, IIM Bangalore was a mind -opening experience. Prior to going to IIM B I was a hardcore Mechanical Engineer in the Indian Railways. I was conditioned to see events and situations through an ‘engineering lens’. IIM B, allowed me the opportunity to delve into non-engineering domains like finance, economics and psychology, and broadened the way I could view emerging situations.

I have heard some folks commenting on how a cut-and-dried, ‘nuts and bolts’ guy like myself could switch to authorship and the airy-fairy space of fiction. I too have wondered about this often. I realise today that in a curious way, IIM B has played an enabling role in this. As I worked up the corporate ladders, I shifted more and more into a Leadership role. I soon realised Leadership at its essence is the envisioning of a future that was not going to happen anyway. It is all about a possibility-seeking mindset coupled with an analytical approach. I have found that authorship too is about envisioning possibilities.

A Program like ‘Winning in a Disruptive World’ is thus about envisioning a future amidst a fast-changing and disruptive world. The program trains the participant through the practices of five transformative shifts ( I call it a five-shift methodology) to improve one winnability quotient when facing non-linear disruptions like AI and other emerging technologies.